Residents appeal Naxxar block, citing mayor’s ‘conflict of interest’

An artist’s impression of the two multi-storey buildings approved to be built.

A group of Naxxar residents and environmental NGOs are demanding the revocation of a massive residential and commercial development planned for Naxxar, claiming the mayor had an undeclared conflict of interest when she voted in favour of the project on the Planning Authority board.

The appeal was filed before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal by Din l-Art Ħelwa, Għaqda Kulturali Wirt Naxxari, Nationalist councillor Joseph Spiteri and several residents. Within 48 hours, they had crowdfunded enough money to pay expenses.

Approved in December, the project is to be built on the parking lot of the former trade fair grounds in Naxxar. It is split into two elliptical blocks measuring eight and 10 floors high and will have a public open space in between the two buildings.

Spearheaded by San Pawl tat-Tarġa Investments Ltd, the project includes 136 residential units and penthouses, as well as shops, restaurants and other commercial outlets.

The appellants said they had “grave concerns” about the impartiality of the mayor, Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami, adding the principle of natural justice had been breached.

They said she voted in favour despite the Naxxar council having previously stated it was opposed to the height of the buildings.

Muscat Fenech Adami, they said, is the company secretary of Chalet Bulgari Ltd, of which the project’s architect, Edwin Mintoff, is a director and shareholder. She is also CEO of Veduta Estates Ltd, a company which owns 14 per cent of Chalet Bulgari Ltd.

“It is evident that there is an association and link between the architect in question and Muscat Fenech Adami. The approval of the application by the company secretary would be of benefit to the company director and shareholder… This leads to grave concerns regarding the lack of impartiality of Muscat Fenech Adami.”

Muscat Fenech Adami denies any wrongdoing or any conflict. She is facing an ethics probe by the Nationalist Party, which had instructed her to vote against the project and then demanded her resignation after the vote.

The appellants also claim lack of adherence to several provisions of the floor area ratio policy guidelines and the unsuitability of the site for medium-rise buildings in an area surrounded by buildings lower than four floors.

Moreover, the development would have a detrimental visual impact on the Naxxar skyline, they said, pointing to the board’s “unjustified disregard to planning policies”.

The Naxxar local council last week backed a resolution supporting the position taken by the mayor over the development. The mayor and one PN councillor voted for but the other PN representatives voted against or abstained.

As per The Sunday Times of Malta, 23 January 2022